updike’s erotic lyricism… or is it lyric eroticism?

 

"Shadows, angels, dangers, trucks on the road, radio waves in the air slip by us. The incident had the quality, an impalpable slithering-by, of those Wisconsin nights when, outside in the snow no whiter than Candy’s hips and flanks as they gleamed within the erotic turmoil of bedsheets a siren went by, bleating and beating blue upon the bricks, the ivy, the windowsills, the steeples and silos of sleeping Franchise.”

 John Updike, The Coup


 

From Couples:

…Piet was by profession a builder, in love with snug, right-angled things, and he had grown to love this house, its rectangular low rooms, its baseboards and chair rails molded and beaded by hand, the slender mullions of the windows whose older panes were flecked with oblong bubbles and tinged with lavender, the swept worn brick of the fireplace hearths like entryways into a sooty upward core of time, the attic he had lined with silver insulation paper so it seemed now a vaulted jewel box or an Aladdin’s cave, the solid freshly poured basement that had been a cellar floored with dirt when they had moved in five years ago.

…Sometimes in these warm pale nights, as the air cooled and the cars on the road beyond the lilac hedge swished toward Nun’s Bay trailing a phosphorescence of radio music, Angela would turn to Piet while he lay willing to yield himself to fatigue. It seemed crucial that he make no motion of desire toward her; then, speaking no word, as if a visitant from space had usurped his wife’s body, Angela would press herself against him and with curved fingers curiously trace his sides and spine.

Unspeaking also, lest the spell break, he would dare mirror her caress, discovering her nightgown, usually an opaque and entangling obstacle, transparent, rotten, sliding and falling from her flesh like deteriorated burial cloth from a body resurrected in its strength. She showed behind and between her legs a wealth of glistening curves and damps. She tugged her gown to her throat and the bones of her fingers confided a glimmering breast to his mouth, shaped by an ‘ah’ of apprehension; when with insistent symmetry she rolled onto her back to have him use the other, his hand discovered her mons Veneris swollen high, her whole fair floating flesh dilated outward toward a deity, an anyoneness it was Piet’s fortune to have localized, to have seized captive in his own dark form the woman’s beauty caressed the skin of his eyes; his shaggy head sank toward the ancient alleyway where, foul proud queen, she frothed most. His tongue searched her sour labia until if found them sweet. She pulled his hair, Come up. ‘Come inside me?’ He realized, amazed, he who had entered Foxy Whitman the afternoon before, that there was no cunt like Angela’s, none so liquorish and replete.

He lost himself to the hilt unresisted. The keenness of her chemistry made him whimper. Always the problem with their sex had been that he found her too rich to manipulate. She touched his matted chest, waited, and touched her own self, and, mixed with her fluttering fingers, coming like a comet’s dribble, he waited until her hand flew to his buttocks and, urging him to kill her, she gasped and absolved herself from tension.

 

From The Coup:


 

Shadows, angels, dangers, trucks on the road, radio waves in the air slip by us. The incident had the quality, an impalpable slithering-by, of those Wisconsin nights when, outside in the snow no whiter than Candy’s hips and flanks as they gleamed within the erotic turmoil of bedsheets a siren went by, bleating and beating blue upon the bricks, the ivy, the windowsills, the steeples and silos of sleeping Franchise.

In this minute the frames of the prints, the mirrors, the wallpaper pattern in this room showed gray, gray on gray, the brightest gray the rectangles of the windowpanes that sealed them off from the world outside, whose murderous confusions swept by like the giant wings of a snowstorm. Their love, their mingled moistures, their breathing was suspended while the sirens passed. Were the police coming for him? He was aware that in some of these States skins of different colors rubbing was a crime.

In their senior year Candy had received permission to rent a room off-campus, with another girls, who for erotic reasons of her own was much in Green Bay. The room, above a realtor’s office, was until this intrusion of blue black and white. The black lover would lift himself on an arm, the white beloved would lift her head, to recall him to their act, their intimacy, which had nothing to do with the tumult of which a fragment had poured past, and of which other fragments – the pulsing red lights of fire engines or of an ambulance – would in a minute follow.

For his penis in her vagina there could be a rope around his neck. Nor did the Black Muslims condone copulating out of the faith, let alone with a blue-eyed she-devil. It was a conflict-making delight of his years here, being driven by Oscar X through the white man’s fat landscape in a battered but capacious and powerful ’49 Oldsmobile, while the radio poured forth Dinah Washington and Kay Starr, heading toward a temple of Islam in the slums of some Midwestern metropolis, where they might be frisked by grim Irish police or held up at knifepoint by unconverted juvenile delinquents of their own color.

Dangers everywhere, slipping and sliding by. Felix had perceived through the shadows a stain of blood on the bedsheet. Indeed, she had felt different tonight, not her usual just-tight-enough lubricity, but her wetness somehow rougher than usual, clotted. Unclean. Involuntarily he had grimaced, and had been told, "You should thank God. Up to this morning I was afraid I was pregnant."

"Wow," he said, Americanized.

She wanted to squeeze even more intimacy out of the revelation, to win more praise, for a fear endured. "Is that all you can say? You know, it’s a rotten thing, to be a woman. You can’t run away from your body. And the worst thing"

"The worst thing, dear Candy?"

"Never mind."

"The worst thing was, you didn’t want to be carrying a black baby?"

"No, I’d rather like that, as a matter of fact."

"Then what was this worst thing?"

"I won’t tell you." She left the bed to get a cigarette. In the room whose dimness seemed a cubic volume of smoke, her body, crossing to the bureau, was pale, loose, lithe. She struck a match. A red glow formed the center of her voice.

"I wasn’t sure who the father was."

 

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